TORONTO, Aug. 13 (UPI) -- Hypnotism to recall repressed memories in the womb, early childhood or in alleged UFO abductions is rife with problems and should only be used with great caution, researchers from Montreal's Concordia College said Tuesday.
Bias of the hypnotist, leading questions and details of UFO encounters in literature and the news can confound, distort and limit the usefulness and integrity of regression sessions, the scientists say.
In several studies presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association in Toronto, Concordia researchers detailed how easy it was to implant ideas into the minds of subjects which could then turn up as repressed memories -- even to the extent that people under hypnosis would "remember" sounds in the womb.
Researcher Kristina Kandyba said two groups of hypnosis subjects were given suggestions about what they might remember as a 5-year-old, 1- year-old and in utero. One group was told that when 5-year-olds were regressed they often remembered people; that 1-year-olds remembered objects; that while in the womb, fetuses remember sound.
In the second group, the suggestions were reversed and were told that the fetus remembered sensations. When hypnotized, the groups "remembered" according to what had been suggested.
Kandyba said the phenomenon occurred even among those who weren't considered good hypnosis subjects.
She said the study suggested that "all hypnosis subjects can be influenced by what is reported to them,"
In another study, Duncan Day of Concordia's psychology department, used hypnosis to regress six peopled who claimed to be UFO abductees and 14 volunteers who never claimed to be abducted by aliens. The volunteers were told to dream about what a UFO abduction might be like.
Then both groups were hypnotized and their recollections were excerpted and presented to a panel -- including three psychologists -- for evaluation. The panel could not determine which statements came from the abductees or from the dreamers.
Day said so much information is available in books, magazines and elsewhere about UFO abductions that it's almost impossible to separate reports of abductions from fiction.
In a related study that dealt with accuracy of event reporting by children, Day showed how easily 4 and 5 year old children could be mislead by questioning.
In fact, children were so influenced by the leading questions or by their desire to please the interviewer that 20 percent of the children agreed they had suffered an injury during a school outing; almost 50 percent reported that a classmate had been hurt. Actually, no such incidents had occurred.
Day said the study shows how fragile testimony of young children can be and said that in legal situations no interviews of children should ever be conducted without videotape so that the integrity of the interview can be maintained.
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